The truth is that there are pastors (shepherds) who are stars at the small talk, friendly with strangers, and gifted with the gift of gab. But if they are not preaching faithfully Law and Gospel, baptizing, teaching, absolving, presiding at the Eucharist, calling the fallen to repentance, burying the dead, and giving the grieving the real hope of a blest reunion with all who have died in the faith, he is not shepherding. We have become too willing to accept lapses in the essential duties of the shepherd in Christ because the man may be popular and loved for the other stuff. Now we should not have to choose between the qualities of our pastors (shepherds) but at minimum we should expect faithfulness to the real tasks and purposes of the ministry. If I have said it once, I have said it a hundred times to people who complain to me about their pastors. If they preach faithfully the Word of God and administer the Sacraments faithfully, teach the faith to young and old, visit the sick, bury the dead, etc..., then you have a good pastor. Strangely enough, I hardly ever get a complaint from people that their pastors fail to do these essential things but I heard complaints all the time about the other stuff when the shepherd is not adept at these things. Are we satisfied for our shepherd to be friendly even if his sermons are empty of the Truth that endures forever? Is it okay to have a shepherd who does not preach and teach so the the hunger for the Lord's body and blood is not awakened? Is it okay to have a shepherd who does not proclaim baptism and catechize the baptized so that they know truth from error? You get my drift.
The reason Lutheranism is in decline is not because our shepherds have been too faithful in preaching and teaching the faith, too encouraging to the baptized to receive absolution or the heavenly food of Christ's Table, too faithful in calling the erring to repentance, and too faithful in providing the pastoral care of God's Word to the sick, suffering, grieving, and dying. Lutheranism is in decline because we have too many shepherds who do not do these things. Friendliness is no substitute for faithfulness. The shepherd is is good at everything but actually being a shepherd is doing no service to the people in his charge, the congregation in his care, and the faith that is supposed to be his primary domain. As we begin a new year, it might not be a bad time to think on these things.